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26 Jan 2004 : Column 108W—continued

Retirement Pension

Mr. Cousins: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many claims are outstanding or not fully resolved relating to (a) the retirement pension assessment of widows and widowers, (b) the retirement pension assessment of those who have experienced divorce and (c) change of circumstances in retirement pension assessments for those already of pensionable age for (i) the most recently available month and (ii) each same month in the three previous years. [149635]

Malcolm Wicks: The information is in the table.

Number of outstanding claims or not fully resolved

December 2003December 2002December 2001December 2000
(a) the RP assessment of widows and widowers5,702(18)(18)(18)
(b) the RP assessment of those who have experienced divorce10,240(18)(18)(18)
(c) change of circumstance in RP assessments for those already pension age (bereaved customers)20,2934,782(18)1,825

(18) Not available


1. Prior to December 2003 (a) and (b) RP claims were counted together.

2. Figures relating to (c) refer to a change in entitlement for a surviving spouse when one or both in a couple are in receipt of RP and one of the couple dies. We have no figures available for (c) in relation to Dec 2001 due to changes in organisational structure. NPC deals with other changes of circumstance to RP eg increases in RP due to a change in the customer's contribution record. These changes of circumstance are not included in the figures stated against (c) in the table.

Mr. Cummings: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many retired pensioners are using (a) post offices, (b) banks and (c) building societies to receive their pension in the Easington constituency. [148853]

Malcolm Wicks: The information is not available in the format requested.

However from information available as at 29 November 2003, in the Easington parliamentary constituency, the number of pensioners (women aged 60 and over, men aged 65 and over) who receive their state pension is given in the following table by type of method of payment.

Total paid at a post office, by either order book or post office card account9,038
Paid direct to a bank or building society account (some of which can be accessed at post office branches)3,685
Total number of state pensioners12,723


IAD Information Centre, 100 per cent. sample

Information available does not differentiate between bank and building society account for payments direct to accounts. No information is held as to the number of pensioners who receive payments direct to a normal or basic bank or building society accounts who then collect all or part of their pension at the Post Office.

The data exclude state pension recipients who receive state pension combined with another benefit and are paid through another benefit system.

Sema Group

John Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what assessment his Department has made of the performance of the Sema Group in its contracts to operate the Benefits Agency Medical Service. [148497]

Maria Eagle: The Department undertook a major review of the contract in 2001 as a basis for negotiating new and more stretching service level targets for the extension of the existing contract to 2005; the revised targets reflected recommendations for improvements made by the Social Security Select Committee and the Public Accounts Committee.

There are more than 60 targets against which Medical Service's performance is measured, including targets for speed, accuracy and quality; achievement of these targets is reviewed on a monthly basis, with the vast majority being regularly met. For example, in respect of incapacity benefit examinations, the actual average clearance times target of 32 working days (from the receipt of the referral for examination from the DWP to the return of the case to the DWP) has consistently been met, with a year to date performance of 29.5 working days.

The latest report published by the National Audit Office on 17 October 2003 recognised that there has been good progress, and significant improvements to the contracted services.

26 Jan 2004 : Column 109W


Bank of England

Keith Vaz: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer when he last met the Governor of the Bank of England. [151064]

Ruth Kelly: Ministers and civil servants have meetings with a wide range of organisations and individuals as part of the process of policy development and analysis. As with previous Administrations it is not this Government's practice to provide details of all such meetings. All such contacts are conducted in accordance with the Ministerial Code, the Civil Service Code and Guidance for Civil Servants: Contacts with Lobbyists, as appropriate.

Civil Servants

Dr. Cable: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how much space, expressed in square metres, the Department occupies for the offices of civil servants in (a) central London and (b) Greater London. [150274]

Ruth Kelly: The current space occupied by civil servants of the Treasury, the Inland Revenue and the Customs and Excise in (a) central London is 202,453 sq m and in (b) Greater London is 28,017 sq m.


Rob Marris: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what proportion of complaints to (a) the Inland Revenue, (b) HM Customs and Excise and (c) district valuers' offices receive a substantive response within 30 working days. [146853]

Dawn Primarolo: The Inland Revenue, Customs and Excise and the Valuation Office do not capture information about substantive responses within 30 working days.

In the nine months ended 31 December 2003, the Inland Revenue provided a substantive response to 76 per cent. of complaints within 15 working days. In the same period, the Valuation Office provided a response to 74 per cent. of complaints within 20 working days. For the six months ended 30 September 2003, Customs and Excise provided a substantive response to 84 per cent. of complaints within 10 working days.

Compliance Performance Targets

Mr. Gray: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer pursuant to his answer of 15 January 2004, Official Report, columns 868–69W, on taxation adjustment, whether performance related pay has been paid as a consequence of adjustments in (a) the whole and (b) part of the Large Business Office's Compliance performance in the years 1999–2000 to 2001–02. [151095]

Dawn Primarolo: Performance assessment is not linked to nor based on the individual's contribution to yield or taxation adjustments achieved. No performance related pay was paid in consequence of the Large Business Office's performance yield figures reported above.

26 Jan 2004 : Column 110W

Mr. Gray: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what compliance performance targets were set for the (a) Large Business Office (CT) and (b) Inland Revenue in each of the years 1998–99 to 2002–03; and on what dates these targets were set. [151096]

Dawn Primarolo: The information is as follows:

(a) Large Business Office (LBO) compliance performance targets for 2002–03 are set out in the LBO Annual report for the year ended 31 March 2003. For 1998–99 to 2001–02 they are set out in the Board's Annual Reports for these years. These targets are agreed in January/February before the start of each financial year.

(b) National Inland Revenue compliance performance targets for 1998–99 to 2002–03 are set out in the Board's Annual Reports for these years. These targets are agreed as part of the annual planning round.


Mr. Kaufman: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer when he will reply to the letter to him dated 16 October 2003 from the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton with regard to Mr. J. Miah. [151236]

Dawn Primarolo: Following confirmation that the letter referred to was dated 18 December, I have replied to my right hon. Friend.

Financial Services

Mrs. Lawrence: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will make a statement on financial services. [151508]

Ruth Kelly: As I set out in my written statement on 5th January 2004, Official Report, column 1, Lord Penrose delivered the report of his inquiry into Equitable Life to the Treasury on 23 December.

I can report that Lord Penrose has also made his report available to the Serious Fraud Office; and having studied the contents of the report the Treasury has asked the Serious Fraud Office to consider a number of issues raised in the report.

As I set out in my statement of 5 January, the Treasury intends to publish the report in full as soon as possible. I will keep the House fully informed.

I can also confirm that, purely for the purpose of informing the Government's response on specific items of policy, relevant extracts of the report have been shown to named officials of the DTI.

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